Changes in alveolar and cisternal compartments induced by milking interval in the udder of dairy ewes

V. Castillo, X. Such, G. Caja*, A. A.K. Salama, E. Albanell, R. Casals

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this work was to evaluate the effects of milking interval (4, 8, 12, 16, 20, and 24 h) on cisternal size and milk partitioning (cisternal and alveolar) in the udders of dairy ewes. Twenty-four dairy ewes (Manchega, n = 12; Lacaune, n = 12) were used in a 2-wk experiment during mid-lactation. Cisternal and alveolar milk yields were measured and milk samples from each udder fraction were collected for analysis. Cisternal milk was obtained after i.v. injection of an oxytocin receptor antagonist, and alveolar milk was obtained after i.v. injection of oxytocin. Enlargement of the cisternal compartment due to milking intervals was measured by ultrasonography for each half udder. Volumes of cisternal and alveolar milk differed according to breed, being greater in Lacaune (888 ± 43 and 338 ± 25 mL, respectively) than in Manchega ewes (316 ± 43 and 218 ± 25 mL, respectively). Alveolar milk increased linearly to 16 h in Manchega and 20 h in Lacaune and remained constant thereafter. Cisternal milk accumulated linearly to 24-h milking intervals in both breeds. Cisternal area (values per udder half) increased as milking interval increased, reaching a plateau at 20 h in Manchega (21 ± 1 cm2) and 16 h in Lacaune (37 ± 1 cm 2). Correlation between cisternal area and cisternal milk was the greatest at 8 h (Manchega: r = 0.70 and Lacaune: r = 0.56). Cisternal area correlated with total milk (r = 0.80). Milk fat content varied markedly with milking intervals, increasing in alveolar milk (until 12 h in Manchega, 8.90 ± 0.18%; and 20 h in Lacaune, 8.67 ± 0.19%) and decreasing until 24 h in cisternal milk (5.74 ± 0.29% and 4.85 ± 0.29%, respectively). Milk protein content increased in alveolar milk until 24 h (Manchega, 6.46 ± 0.11%; Lacaune, 5.95 ± 0.11%), but did not vary in cisternal milk. Milk lactose content only decreased at the 24-h milking interval in the cisternal milk of Manchega ewes (4.60 ± 0.04%). In conclusion, our results suggest that cisterns play an important role in accommodating secreted milk during extended milking intervals. Thus, long milking intervals could be a recommended strategy for large-cisterned dairy sheep. Evidence indicates that ultrasonography provides accurate estimations of udder cistern size and could be used as an indicator for selecting large-cisterned dairy ewes. © American Dairy Science Association, 2008.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3403-3411
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2008


  • Cisternal milk
  • Dairy sheep
  • Milking frequency
  • Ultrasonography


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